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PERSONAL NARRATIVES 



OF THE 



Battles of the Rebellion 

No. 1. 



THE FIRST CAMPAIGN 



OF THE 



Secoe-d Rhode Islaintd Iistfaji^tey. 



BY 



ELISHA H. RHODES. 



PERSOl^AL ISTARRATIYES 



Battles of the Eebellioint, 



PATERS KKAU BKFORK THE 



RHODE ISLAND SOLDIERS AlND SAILORS 



HISTORICAL SOCIETY 



No. 1. 



" Qtiaeque ipse, miserrlma fidi, 
Et quorum purs magna fui." 



PROVIDENCE : 
SIDNEY S. UIDER. 

1878. 






Silts K V S. U I I) E It. 

1 .S '. .s . 



I'uiNTKU uv ruoviDicNcu i'::i.ss comi-any. 



TJIE FIRST CAMPAIGN 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTRY 



ELISIIA II. RHODES, 

(I.;il(.' Liruii'iiiint-roloiu'l C'uninianding Second liliude iHlaiul lin'nn 
Brevet Colonel United StiUeit Volunteers.) 






PHOVIDENCK. 
SIDNEY 8. HI 1) K K 

1878. 



(^ 



■2i. 



PUBLISHER\S Is^OTE. 



A few years since, it occurred to some of tlie comrades re- 
siding in tliis city, "vvlio served in tlie United States Army and 
Navy during tlie war of tlic rebellion, to form themselves into an 
association under the name of the "Rhode Island Soldiers and 
Sailors Historical Society," for the purpose of collecting, as far 
as they were able, documents concerning the civil war, and of 
putting on record some of the unwritten history of that contest, 
in the hope that their labors might, perhaps, be of value to the 
future historian. As a part of the means to this end, these 
comrades have, from time to time, written and read before the 
Society papers treatuig of their own experiences and recol- 
lections of notable events as they saw them. In the belief, that 
these papers will be pleasant reading for all who were inter- 
ested in the great conflict, and contain many facts of historical 
value, as well as tend to keep alive memories of patriotism, 
bravery and self-sacrifice. It is proposed to publish them in 
a series of pamphlets uniform in size and style for preserva- 
tion. The initial number. The Campaign of the Second Rhode 
Island Infantry by Colonel Rhodes, is here presented. It was 
read before the Society, November 3rd, 1875, and was the first 
one of the series. Others are in preparation and will speedily 
follow. 

Providekce, July, 1878. 



THK FIHST CAMPAIGN 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTRY. 



Upon the call of the President of the United 
States, in the Spring of 1861, for troops to serve for 
the period of three years, measures were taken to 
oro-anize a regiment to be known as the Second 
Rhode Island Volunteers. It Avas my fortune to be 
one of the first to volunteer for service as a soldier 
in this command, and I propose to relate in plain and 
simple language, my experience during the first few 
weeks of the war, including a description of the 
First Battle of Bull Run, as seen from the standpoint 
of an enlisted man. I am aware that I have selected 
a diflicult subject, as perhaps no campaign of the 
War of the Rebellion has given rise to more contra- 
dictory statements and reports than the one I shall 



8 THE rmST CAMPAIGN OF THE 

attempt to describe this evening. In the excited 
state of the people at this time, and in the absence 
of a proper appreciation of military affairs, skir- 
mishes were magnified into battles, and the highest 
importance was attached to events that in after years 
were considered of very little if of any consequence. 
If in the course of my paper I am obliged to fre- 
quently refer to myself, I know you will excuse me 
when you remember that this paper is a personal 
narrative, a record of what I saw and felt, and not 
a history of general events. 

I enlisted at the armory of the First Light Infan- 
try Company, in Providence, R. I., and assisted in 
organizing a company composed of about one hun- 
dred and forty men, which command, after being 
properly officered, was tendered to Colonel John S. 
Slocum as part of the regiment to be raised. The 
number of recruits offered from all parts of the State 
was largely in excess of the number required, and 
rendered it necessary that some organizations should 
be declined, and as the Infantry had already sent two 
companies into the First Rhode Island Detached Mili- 
tia, our company was ordered to disband, much to our 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTRY. » 

disappoiiitiiiciit. Tweiity-Hve men, howtivcr, were 
selected from our ranks and assigned to a company 
commanded by Captain William II. P. Steere. My 
name was included in the number selected, and I sud- 
denly found myself changed from an " Infantry " man 
to a "National Cadet." This company was mustered 
into the United States service as Company "D," 
June 5th, 18()1, in a building on Eddy street, Prov- 
idence, and ranked fourth in the regimental forma- 
tion. Uniforms were issued, consisting of the so- 
called "Rhode Island blouse," grey pants, and hats 
looped up at the side. 

On the seventh of June the first parade was nuide 
and the regiment proceded to Exchange Place and 
there listened to an official announcement of the death 
of the Honorable Stephen A. Douglas. On the eighth 
the regiment went into camp on Dexter Training 
Ground, which was named in honor of the Colonel of 
the First Rhode Island Detached Militia, "Camp 
Burnside." Sibley tents were issued and our camp life 
began. Our company being unable to procure tents 
passed the first night in a carpenter shop on the cor- 
ner of Cranston and Gilmore Streets. One member 



10 THE FIKST CAMPAIGN OF THE 

of the regiment was drummed out of camp to the 
tune of the rogue's march, creating quite a sensation 
not only in the camp but among the citizens of the 
city. I remember that we made several parades, and 
on one occasion attended Divine service at Grace 
Church and were addressed by Rt. Rev. Bishop 
Clark. The colors which the regiment carried into 
the field were presented by the ladies of Brovidence, 
June twelfth, by the hands of Hon. Jabez C. Knight, 
Mayor, and the scene was one long remembered by 
the men. 

A battery of light artillery, armed with James 
twelve pounder guns, had been organized, and 
under command of Captain William H. Reynolds 
was attached to the regiment. This battery was 
known afterwards as "Battery A, First Rhode Island 
Light Artillery," and at the close of the Bull Run 
campaign Avas detached from the regiment. 

Rumors of our intended departure for the seat of 
war had become numerous, but for reasons best 
known to the authorities our breaking camp was de- 
layed until June nineteenth, when tents were struck, 
baggage and knapsacks packed, and the regiment 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTRY. 1 1 

moved out of eunip, and marching by way of High, 
Westminster and South Main Streets, took the 
steamer State of iNTainc near Fox Point. The Bat- 
tery embarked upon the steamer Kill-von-kull. The 
streets were crowded with people, and we left the 
wharf amid the tearful farewells and cheers of our 
friends. Rations of bread and salt beef were served 
on board the transport, and we had our first taste of 
army fare, having lived sumptuously while encamped 
in Providence. The novelty of the trip banished 
sleep from our eyes, and we passed the night indulg- 
ing in such mild demonstrations as military disci- 
pline would permit. By early morning we were in 
New York, and after touching at the wharf for 
orders, we steamed away to Elizabeth, New Jersey, 
where we landed and took the cars for Baltimore via 
York and Flarrisburg, Pennsylvania. All day we 
slowly rolled along the track and on the afternoon 
of the twenty-first found ourselves in the vicinity of 
Baltimore. 

Rumors had been heard along the route that an 
attack was to be made upon us while marching 
through Baltimore, and the excitement in the regi- 



12 THE FIRST CAMPAIGN OF THE 

ment ran high. Three ball cartridges were issued 
to each man in the cars, and as we had the old style 
of flint-lock gun, altered to percussion, we found 
each cartridge to contain three buck shot in addition 
to the ball. Most of the n^en carried revolvers, 
although strict orders had been issued against the 
practice. In the search which was made by the offi- 
cers for concealed weapons, I managed (as most of 
the boys did) to save mine from capture. It was 
dark when we disembarked at Baltimore and we 
found the streets crowded with people. Strict 
orders had been given us to answer no questions and 
hold no conversation with any one. Silently we 
slung our knapsacks, and taking our places in line 
began the march. Cheers for Jefl^". Davis were given 
by the crowd on the sidcAvalks, and some abuse was 
heaped upon us, but we kept on our march, ready 
to repel an attack. My knapsack contained a load 
sufiacicnt for a dozen men, and with aching back I 
tramped on, not daring to stop for fear of the crowd. 
As I look back upon this short march, I remember 
it as one of the most fatiguing ones I ever experi- 
enced. But I learned a useful lesson : never to put 
more in a knapsack than I could comfortably carry. 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTRY. 13 

After takinar the cars for WashinErton we heard 
many rumors of intentions to run us off the track, 
which kept the men on the alert, and fears of an 
attack caused sleep to be out of the question. It 
seems strange now to think of our alarm, but at the 
time it was dangers unseen, more than seen, that 
troubled us. 

On the morning of June twenty-second the regi- 
ment arrived in Washington, and we had our first 
view of the Capitol. Forming column, we marched 
out New York Avenue, a distance of about three 
miles, to Gale's Woods, where we found a camp ad- 
joining the l)arracks occupied by the First Rhode 
Island Detached Militia. Our camp was called " Camp 
Clark," in honor of Bishop Clark, who accompanied 
us to Washington. The boys of the First Rhode 
Island greeted us with hearty cheers, and we were 
soon made at home in their comfortable quarters. 

The next few weeks were passed in perfecting our 
discipline and knowledge of a soldier's duty. Our 
camp was a centre of attraction for the Washington 
people, and the evening parades of both regiments 
were witnessed by thousands. The parades were 
2 



14 THE FIRST CA3IPA1GN OF THE 

held in the camp of the First Regiment, the Colonels 
alternating in command. Rumors of intended move- 
ments were continually reaching camp, and every 
skirmish in Virginia was magnified into a battle. 
While stationed at " Camp Clark " we experienced 
little, if any, of the unpleasant and disagreeable part 
of a soldier's life. Rations were issued in bulk to 
both regiments, and cooked under the supervision of 
the commissary of the First Rhode Island. The daily 
fare consisted of roast beef and plum pudding for 
dinner, while the morning and evening meals were 
more like what one would expect to find at home, 
rather than in the army. I remember well our dis- 
gust at receiving, just before we started on the Bull 
Run march, an issue of army rations composed of 
hard tack and salt pork. 

On the eighteenth day of July we broke camp and 
moved out into New York avenue, where we found 
the brigade to which we were assigned, which up to 
this time we had known only in name. The brigade 
consisted of the First and Second Rhode Island Vol- 
unteers, the Second New Hampshire Volunteers and 
the Seventy-first New York Militia, the whole un- 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTRY. 15 

der command of the senior Colonel, Ambrose E. 
Burnside. Excitement ran high in the streets, and 
as Ave moved through the city we were loudly 
cheered by the people. Crossing the Potomac, by 
Long Bridge, we took the road to Fairftix Court 
House. It being late when we crossed the river, 
only a short march was made, and we halted for the 
night at Annaudale. This was our first experience 
in sleeping without tents and by camp fires. Rails 
were soon collected and immense fires started, we 
imajrininir this to be the correct thing for soldiers 
to do, although on a hot July night. 

Early the next morning, the nineteenth, we re- 
sumed the march. Co. " D," Captain Steere, was de- 
tailed as flankers, and we started ofi" with little, if any, 
idea of our duty or danger. I remember we found 
an old railroad embankment covered with black- 
berry bushes, and the entire company stopped and 
ate their fill. This march partook more of the char- 
acter of a pleasant ramble than that of an armed 
force looking for an enemy. About noon, in company 
with two other men, I found myself on the summit of 
a hill, and looking back to our left and rear I saw the 



16 THE FIRST CAMPAIGN OF THE 

si3ires of a town that we had passed unnoticed. I 
reported the fact to Captain Steere, and with his 
glass we decided that it must be Fairfax. Captain 
Steere formed his company into a square, and in 
this manner w^e entered the town by a side street 
and below the Court House. The rebels, in their 
haste, had left many articles lying in the streets, 
and if we had not been restrained by the good sense 
of our Captain, we should have loaded ourselves 
with the useless trumpery. 

Halting in the main street we were soon joined 
by the head of our regiment, that came in by the 
main road. The rebel flag was taken down and the 
Stars and Stripes raised by one of our men. It fell 
to our lot to be placed in camp in the grounds of a 
mansion which had been occupied by the rebel com- 
manding general. In looking about the house I 
found among some loose papers a subsistence return, 
showing the number of men to whom rations had 
been issued the day before. I gave the paper to 
Captain Nelson Viall and he sent it to army head- 
quarters. The passion for pillage broke out, but 
was quickl}^ suppressed, though many ludicrous 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTUY. 17 

scenes occurred. I remember one man entering camp 
■with a Bible under one arm and an immense enjjrav- 
ing of the Father of his Country under the other. 
An officer obliged him to restore the articles to the 
house. A piano, from which the strings had been 
taken, served as a cupboard for some of the boys. 
The inhabitants had fled and we had the town all to 
ourselves. 

On the twentieth we left Fairfax Court House and 
encamped a few miles beyond, near Centreville. 
Here we Iniilt shelters with pine and cedar boughs, 
and this camp is known to this day as " Bush 
Camp " by the men of the Second Rhode Island Vol- 
unteers. Here we heard our first hostile shot, and 
although at a distance, yet it served to impress us 
with what was likely to follow. 

About two o'clock, on the morning of July twenty- 
first, we left "Bush Camp," and marching down the 
hill, through Centreville, found the roads obstructed 
by wagons and troops that had failed to start on time. 
Soon the Second left the main road and struck off 
to tiie right, through a wood path that had been 
much obstructed. As we led the brigade the task of 



18 THE FIHST CAMPAIGN OF THE 

clearing the road fell to us, and hard work we found 
it. About nine o'clock in the forenoon we reached 
Sudley church, and a distant gun startled us, but we 
did not realize that our first battle was so near at 
hand. We now took a side road that skirted a 
piece of woods and marched for some distance, the 
men amusing themselves with laughter and jokes, 
with occasional stops for berries. On reaching a clear- 
ing, separated from our left flank by a rail fence, we 
were saluted with a volley of musketry, which, how- 
ever, was fired so high that all the bullets went over 
our heads. I remember that my first sensation was 
one of astonishment at the peculiar whir of the bul- 
lets, and that the regiment immediately laid down 
without waiting for orders. Colonel Slocum gave 
the command, "By the left flank — march!" and 
we commenced crossiilg the field. One of our boys 
by the name of Webb fell off of the fence and 
broke his bayonet. This caused some amusement, 
for even at this time we did not realize that we 
were about to engage in Ijattle. 

As we crossed the fence, the rebels, after firing a 
few scattering shots, fled down a slope to the woods. 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTRY. 19 

We followed to the brow of the hill and opened fire. 
Our battery came into position on our right and 
replied to the rel^cl artillery, which was sending 
their shell into our line. Of what followed, I have 
very confused ideas. I remember that my smooth 
bore gun became so foul that I was obliged to 
strike the ramrod against a fence to force the cart- 
ridge home, and soon exchanged it for another. 
There was a hay stack in front of our line, and some 
of the boys sheltered themselves behind it. A shell 
from the enemy striking the stack covered the men 
with hay, from which they emerged and retook their 
places in line. About this time, Private Thomas 
Parker of Co. "D" captured a prisoner, a member 
of the Louisiana Tiger regiment, and as he bronght 
him back to the line was spoken to by Colonel Slo- 
cum. 

Colonel Slocum had crossed a rail fence in our 
front and had advanced nearer to the brow of the 
hill than the line occupied by the regiment. As 
he returned and Avas in the act of climbing the fence, 
he fell on the side next to the regiment. I, being 
the nearest man to him at the time, raised him up, 



20 THE FIRST CAMPAIGN OF THE 

but was unable to lift him from the ""round. Calliuo- 
for help, Private Parker (mentioned above) dropped 
his gun and came to my assistance. Together we 
bore him to a small house on the left of the line and 
laying him upon the floor, sent for Colonel Burn- 
side, Surgeon Francis L. Wheaton and Chaplain 
Thorndike Jameson, who all arrived in a few mo- 
ments, a lull in the tight having occurred. Chaplain 
Augustus Woodbury and Assistant Surgeon James 
Harris, of the First. Rhode Island Detached Militia, 
were already in attendance. With the sponge, from 
my cup, 1 washed the blood from his head and found 
that the bullet had ploughed a furrow from rear to 
front through the top of his head, but had not 
lodged. His ankle ( I cannot call to mind which 
one) was also injured, having two wounds upon it. 
While unable to speak, yet he appeared conscious, 
and at my request w^ould remove his hand from his 
wounded head. When it was decided to place the 
Colonel in an ambulance, I took a door from its 
hinges with my gun screw driver, and assisted in 
carrying him on this door to the ambulance. Colo- 
nel Slocum, as is well known, fell into the hands of 
the enemy and died of his injuries. 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTRY. 21 

But to go back to the battle, the Second Regiment 
was engaged about thirty minutes without support, 
when the balance of the brigade was brought on to 
the field and the battle became general. The Eighth 
Georgia regiment was in our immediate front, and 
received the benefit of our fire. We had a tradition 
in our regiment until the close of the war, that the 
Second Rhode Island nearly annihilated this Georgia 
reiriment. Since the close of the war, I have seen a 
paper, written and printed in the South, which gives 
the Second Rhode Island the credit of having broken 
up and destroyed the Eighth Georgia so completely 
that it had to be reorganized. Shot and shell were 
continually striking in or near our line and the 
troops became much scattered. Losing my own 
company I joined Company F, under command of 
Lieutenant William B. Sears, and remained with 
them uirtil the battle ceased and we withdrew to 
replenish our ammunition. 

About three o'clock in the afternoon the enemy 
disappeared in our front and the firing ceased. We 
considered that a victory had been won. The 
wounded Avere cared for and then orders came for us 



22 TIIK FIKST CAMPAIGN OF THE 

to retire to a piece of woods in our rear and till our 
boxes with ammunition. We found the First Rhode 
Island in the woods with arms stacked and some of 
the men cooking. I remember of meeting friends 
in the First Regiment and congratuhiting them on 
our victory, little expecting the tinale of our day's 
fiilhtino-. 

The firing, which had gradually receded, now 
seemed to be nearer, and soon a shell fired into the 
woods told us that the enemy had returned to renew 
the combat. I cannot explain the causes for w^hat fol- 
lowed. The woods and roads were soon filled with 
fleeino: men and our brio;ade was ordered to the front 
♦o cover the retreat, which it was now evident could 
not be stopped. Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Whea- 
ton who, on the fall of Colonel Slocum, had assumed 
command, posted the regiment to the left of our first 
position and behind a fence. The field was soon 
clear of troops, excepting our brigade, all of which 
except the Second Rhode Island, were posted farther 
back from the brow of the hill. The rebels came on 
in splendid order, pushing two light field guns to the 
front with them. We received their fire and held 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTRY. 23 

them in check until the brigade had taken up their 
march, Avhen we followed— the last to leave the field. 
The rebels followed us for a short distance, shelling 
our rear, and then we pursued our march unmo- 
lested, until we reached the vicinity of the bridge 
that crosses Cub Run. Here a rebel battery opened 
upon us from a corner of the woods and the stam- 
pede commenced. The l)ridge was soon rendered 
impassible by the teams that obstructed it, and we 
here lost five of the guns belonging to our battery. 
Many men were killed and wounded at this point, 
and a panic seemed to seize upon every one. In my 
opinion (looking at the matter from a more safe 
standpoint than I occupied that day) a few deter- 
mined men might have captured the rebel guns and 
the crossing been effected in safety. As our regi- 
ment was now broken, I looked for a place to cross 
the stream, not daring to try the bridge. I jumped 
into the run and holding my gun above my head 
struggled across with the water up to my waist. 
After crossing, the regiment gradually formed again, 
and we continued our march to Centrcville where 
we found Blenker's troops ■ posted across the road to 



24 THE FIRST CAMPAIGN OF THE 

protect the retreat. We passed through their ranks, 
and entered our old grounds, " Bush Camp," suppos- 
ing the retreat to be at an end. 

Tired, hungry and wet, we laid down, only to be 
awakened about eleven o'clock that night to resume 
the march towards Washington, in the midst of a 
rain storm. The regiment filed out of camp and 
marched to Fairfax Court House, in good order and 
rested in the streets. Crowds of soldiers were hur- 
rying by and the streets were blocked with trains. 
After halting a few minutes we started again and 
soon, in the darkness, rain and crowd, became 
broken up to some extent. Of the horrors of that 
night, I can give you no adequate idea. I suffered 
untold horrors from thirst and fatigue, but struggled 
on, clinging to my gun and cartridge box. Many 
times I sat down in the mud determined to go no 
further, and willing to die to end my misery. But 
soon a friend would pass and urge me to make 
another effort, and I would stagger on a mile further. 
At daylight we could see the spires of Washington, 
and a welcome sight it was. About eight o'clock I 
reached Fort Runyon, near Long Bridge, and giving 



SECOND RHODE ISLAND INFANTRY. 25 

my gun to !iii officer, who was collecting them, I 
entered a tent and was soon asleep. Towards noon 
I awoke and, with my company, endeavored to 
cross Long Bridge, but fell exhausted before reach- 
ing the Washington side. My officers kindly placed 
me in an army wagon and I was carried to camp, 
where, after rest and proper care, I soon recovered 
and went on duty. 

The loss of the regiment in this disastrous affiiir 
was ninety-three killed, wounded and missing. Of 
this number, four officers were killed, namely. Colo- 
nel John S. Slocum, Major Sullivan Ballon, Captain 
Levi Tower and Captain S. James Smith. Twent}'- 
six enlisted men were killed or mortally wounded. 
My Company, "D," lost four killed, three wounded, 
one of whom died, and one missing. 

Duyckinck, in his History of the Rel)ellion, makes 
the following mention of the regiment and the part 
it took in this battle : 

"The history of the Second Rhode Ishuid Voluutecrs niaj- be 
cited as an example of those to whom Bull Run was no disgrace. 
They were near the extreme jight in the engagement. Their 
previous march had been as fatiguing as that of others ; they 



26 THE FIRST CAMPAIGN. 

were as badly off for food as others, having nothing but a few 
crackers to eat for more than thirty-six hours. They were the 
first to engage, were severely engaged, as long as or longer than 
any others ; they were badly cut up, losing their Colonel and 
other officers, and sixteen per cent, of their ranks killed. (This 
should be sixteen per cent, killed and wounded.) They stood 
firm under fire while the panic stricken crowd swept by and 
through them, and until they received the order to retreat. They 
then wheeled steadily into column and marched in good order, 
until the road was obstructed by overturned wagons. Here 
they were badly broken up by a cannonade, scattered and disor- 
ganized, but afterwards having mainly collected at Centreville, 
reformed and marched the same night, under such of their officers 
as remained alive, to and through Washington, to a position 
several miles to the northward— a post of danger — where they 
at once resumed regular camp duties. "When visited, a few days 
afterwards, by an inspector, he was told and led to believe that 
the men only wanted a day's rest to be ready aud Avilling to 
advance again upon the enemy. He reported the regiment not 
demoralized." 



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